Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue

Released November 26, 2002
During the autumn of 1975 Bob Dylan embarked on an impromptu tour known as the Rolling Thunder Revue. Each show was designed to be a theatrical extravaganza, going against the grain of the arena rock that dominated the decade. This edition in the Bootleg Series features performances from the autumn of 1975. 

The CD opens with a rocking version of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Home With You," from the 1969 album Nashville Skyline. The guitars of Mick Ronson and T-Bone Burnett combined with Dylan's excitable vocal brought new life to the song. In fact pretty much every song Dylan performed on the tour got a major reboot, no longer recording stuck in amber on a record, but live bytes of creativity being rediscovered and redefined. "It Ain't Me Babe," is a defiant song of lament from the the 1964 LP Another Side of Bob Dylan that gets converted into a rally cry of personal liberation. The solemn poetics of "A Hard Rain's A- Gonna Fall" is now driving rock and roll song with dizzying apocalyptic imagery. "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" reminded audiences Dylan still cared about social justice (detractors still took him to task for not writing protest music).

Next followed two from the yet to come Desire album: "Romance in Durango" and "Isis." Then two acoustic numbers the classic "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the moving "Simple Twist of Fate" from Blood on the Tracks. Joan Baez joined Dylan for "Blowin' in the Wind" and then one they performed many times a decade earlier, "Mama, You've Been on My Mind." The first CD concludes with Dylan and Baez doing a duet of "I Shall Be Released" with a country music twang.

The second CD starts with two more acoustic numbers, both songs from Bringing It All Back Home, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit." Then "Tangled Up in Blue" an instant classic with some slightly revised lyrics. Baez joined Dylan again for the traditional song, "The Water is Wide." An impassioned version of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh (It Takes a Train to Cry)" captured the spirit of Highway 61 Revisited. When someone from the crowd demanded a protest song Dylan responded with "Oh Sister." A lawsuit settlement prevented Dylan from performing "Hurricane" so this particular bootleg is one of few live versions out there (although it doesn't come close to the stirring version on Desire). "One More Cup of Coffee" and "Sara" would also both appear on Desire. Dylan even took audience requests and played "Just Like A Woman." The CD appropriately closes with "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

At best, this volume in the Bootleg series captures a sense of the excitement of the Rolling Thunder Revue. The tour produced two immediate albums Desire and a live album that caught the tail end of the tour entitled Hard Rain. The 1978 film Renaldo and Clara, Dylan's lone directorial effort, also resulted from the tour. 

These shows were a Dylan no had ever seen before: interactive, political, theatrical, and completely possessed with the spirit of the music. 


  1. I wish this set featured some of the guest numbers. The backing band, called "Guam" opened, and there was a solo spotlight on Mick Ronson at some point in the show I was at. I didn't know what to make of all that then; I wonder if I would now

  2. The reworking of "It't ain't Me Babe" is a favorite of mine. I also love the into to "Hurricane". . "if you got any political pull at all, you can help get this man out of jail. . and back on to the streeeeets". There's something about Bob talking right before breaking into song that gets me going. Good review dude. Like the site. I'm